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Put down the food labelling gun and step away from the veggie burgers! The right of meat free products to use names originally applied to meat products has been upheld by the European Parliament, thwarting an attempt by the meat lobby to keep carnivorous-sounding nomenclature for themselves.
Meat producers had given their backing to amendment 165 to the Common Agricultural Policy, which would, if passed, have seen greener eaters being forced to tuck into veggie discs, tubes and strips, rather than veggie burgers, sausages and bacon. They claimed consumers were being misled by such labelling into buying plant-based grub.
MEPs were prepared to credit shoppers with more intelligence, however, and voted against the amendment, which had been approved for ballot by its agriculture committee in 2019. It has long been clear to meat free eaters and meat reducers – and indeed to anyone with a brain and eyes – that consumers are perfectly capable of avoiding a mix-up in the freezer aisle, by simple dint of being able to read.
The amendment wanted names used for cuts of meat to “be reserved exclusively for edible parts of the animals” and was supported by Copa-Cogeca, the largest farmers’ association in Europe. The meat lobby hoped for another victory such as that in 2018, when France – which supported the defeated proposal – passed a law that forced producers to strip non-meat products of their meaty names. Despite that dark day for the beanburger and the cauliflower steak, the rejection of an EU-wide ban means the sun of reason now shines over Europe – which is good news for the health of people and planet.
The European Commission is aiming to be climate-neutral by 2050 and any attempt to block or put the brakes on a shift to a more plant-based diet would be a step in the wrong direction. As a House of Lords committee looking into the proposed ban warned Britain’s agriculture minister last year, it would “make it more challenging for people to reduce the amount of meat in their diet at a time when government should be seeking to encourage the opposite”.
It wasn’t all good news, however, as non-dairy foodstuffs took a further beating. Plant-based alternatives to milk, yoghurt and cheese have been prevented from using those terms since a European ruling in 2017. Now any indirect reference – such as “milk-like” or “imitation cheese” – will be banned too.